Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The Book - "Delicacy" by David Foenkinos

So last month - or was it the month before (time goes so fast these days!) - the book club of which I am a member chose to read Delicacy by David Foenkinos. I must say I haven't enjoyed a book this much in a long time. I read through it in a few days, although admittedly it's pretty short.

The book was originally written in French, but the English translation is very good. It is the most quirky and eclectic book I've ever read, and I can't quite figure out if this is because it was first written in French (and let's face it, the French are pretty quirky) or if it's the author's style. 

I loved every page. While reading it, I was constantly stopping, giggling and then reading out sentences to Luke, such as:

"After their last exchange, he'd left slowly. Without making a sound. As unobtrusive as a semicolon in an eight-hundred-page novel." 

Love it! Is that a French saying? If not, it should be! It was like the book version of Amelie, which makes sense because that's French too.

This novel has incredibly short chapters. (Take note authors, this is a great way to get readers glued to your book. "Oh what, a chapter over already, I'll just read another one or 3.") Also, every second chapter is a kind of separate literary item which refers to something in the previous chapter. For example, the characters order risotto at a restaurant and the next chapter will be the recipe for the risotto; or they go to a play and the next chapter is a scene from the play. I loved this - it's such a neat idea and somehow really made the story come alive.
Anyway, I suppose I'd better also tell you the basic storyline: Natalie meets her future husband in one of the serendipitous must-be-fate moments on a street in Paris. Strangers become lovers, and as a reader you feel the lovers' bliss radiating off the page until Fran├žois is suddenly killed by a car while on his Sunday morning jog.

Natalie goes into shutdown mode, as if her marriage and happiness were too good to be true. She becomes reclusive and throws herself into her work, creating a barrier between herself and everyone who loves her. However, one day she impulsively kisses Markus, a colleague at work. Markus is the antithesis of Natalie. While she is smart, classy and sophisticated, he is awkward, clumsy and a bit of an oddball. Markus immediately falls hopelessly and helplessly in love with Natalie. However, he is not the only one with his eye on her; their boss has also been quite taken with her for some time.

Yes, there is a film, which I have yet to see. But even without watching it I can tell you the book will be better. There is no way you can possibly translate the subtle, quirky, and of course delicate nature of this book completely on to the screen. 

More favourite quotes:

"Then what were they going to talk about? You can't change context with a snap of the fingers. They'd be like two butchers at a vegetarians' convention."

"Markus left the office feeling as stunned as the sun during an eclipse."

"Lately, Natalie had almost forgotten that Charles existed. He was like an old telephone number, an element that no longer jibes with the times."
Until next time :)

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Celebration - One Year Blogaversary

Happy Blogaversary to me! I can't believe I've been writing this blog for a whole year (albeit somewhat sporadically). Thank you to all my ones of ones of followers who come to this little corner of the internet I've created. It's been fun. Well, at least I've had fun. And I hope to continue the blog until I get so busy that the idea of writing a blog seems like a huge luxury of time. But I'm not there yet, so let us continue.

How to celebrate? Well, one thing I like about my blog is that it keeps a record of how my "look" has evolved in the past 12 months. So I thought it might be fun to take one style photo from each month and track the "evolution" of my style from when I started to the present.

So what do you think? Has my style developed for the better? (I sure hope so!) Which one do you like best? I think my favourite is July '12. Luke? Well, he says he likes them all, but when further pushed his favourites are November '11 and October '12. :)

Until next time :)

Monday, 29 October 2012

The Verse - Zephaniah 3:17

The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

(Zephaniah 3:17)

I love this verse and it was brought up in conversation with some people from church, so I wanted to share it with you.

Here is some context: The prophet Zephaniah lived during the reign of Josiah (640-609 BC). Previously, the kings of Judah had led their people astray from God into many forms of idolatry and sin. During the reign of Josiah, the Book of God's Law was found by Hilkiah the High Priest. From it Josiah started a great reform, bringing people back to the Lord. Due to his royal heritage Zephaniah was able to speak to King Josiah directly, and undoubtedly played a part in the reformation of Judah.

The Book of Zephaniah was written before these reforms. Zephaniah warns Judah that the final days are near and that the Lord will soon bring judgement through allowing them to be conquered by the Babylonians. However, as with many of the books of prophecy in the Bible, near-future fulfillment often mingles with distant-future fulfillment. I once had it described to me through the analogy of looking at a mountain range. You see a mountain before you, but behind it you can see another mountain, and still further behind that you can see another fainter mountain. From the perspective of biblical prophecy, this is like near-future fulfillment, Messianic fulfillment (in the life of Jesus), and end-times fulfillment. It's amazing how sometimes even just one verse can refer to two or sometimes even three different time periods and fulfillments (whether they be partial or complete fulfillments).

Anyway, I digress. So Zephaniah deals with the immediate judgement at the hands of the Babylonians, but it also speaks about the last days when Jesus will return and judge the world. The verse above is in reference to the final judgement.

Here are the things I love about this verse:

1) It speaks of God being in [our] midst. We know that the Holy Spirit does indeed dwell in us once we have repented and placed our trust in Jesus Christ, and although it will naturally be very different when we are in Heaven, we can still experience God's presence to a degree on earth.

2) A mighty one who will save - There is no one who God cannot save. There is no sin too big for God to forgive. Our God is truly mighty to save. I know this personally because of the multitude and depth of my own sins. The Lord is bigger and mightier than all of our sins put together.

3) He will rejoice over you with gladness - The other day Luke and I were listening to one of our favourite radio programs, Wretched Radio, and the topic was how you think God feels towards you. Do you think He is angry with you? Do you think He is displeased? Do you think He just tolerates you? The Bible teaches that when we repent and put our trust in Jesus Christ, we become God's children: For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15). The fact of the matter is, as Christians we now have an alien righteousness. Jesus' righteousness is applied to us through His death on the cross, which means God looks on us the same way as He looks on His Son. He is full of compassion and love towards us, as a father is to his children. As this verse says, He rejoices over us with gladness.

4) He will quiet you by his love; - When we truly understand the Gospel and the extent of God's love towards us, there are no words that seem adequate to express our gratitude.

5) He will exult over you with loud singing. - This is my favourite part of the verse: the idea that when we are in Heaven, not only do we get to praise God, but we also get to hear Him sing to us. That must be the most glorious and beautiful sound ever. After all, God created music. I can't wait to hear this!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

The Dress - Technicolour Flowers

Okay, so I must have been in a very photogenic mood the day these photos were taken by my fabulous photographer (aka my husband). So I apologise for the bombardment of photos, but I just couldn't choose.

I've been meaning to take photos of this outfit for quite a while and I finally got around to it. So let's break it down, shall we? 

Top: Frutti
I think I've mentioned this shop before. I love it. I mean seriously - this is a gorgeous shop, and if you live in Wellington it really is a must, especially if you answer yes to the following: 1) Are you female? 2) Do you like clothes? 3) Do you like colour? 

Frutti uses the most fun colours and patterns that I have ever seen. The clothing is well made and well selected, but because of this it is also naturally more expensive than your regular chain store. 

I have now bought 2 tops and 1 cardigan from Frutti. The top I'm wearing in these pictures was on sale (even better!) so from memory it was $40. I love the bright print - so colourful. It makes me think of spring. The collar is very cute too. 

Cardigan: Mango
Yep, the purple cardigan is back. I do love a nice cardigan. I think Luke would say I have too many, but I wear one every day, so they're staples of my wardrobe.

Seamed Stockings: Farmers
No, I still haven't looked up the brand. I will do a post one of these days just on seamed stockings. One of these days...

Skirt: Target
This is the pencil skirt I have been trying to replace forever. Actually, it's really more A-line than pencil. I bought it from Target for probably $20 when I was 18 or 19 years old, so it's had a lot of use. It started peeling, so I bought another pencil skirt (for $100), but this started peeling as well a few months later. Peeling clothing is the bane of my existence. Seriously.
Anyway, since the older A-line skirt looks better than the new pencil skirt, I have decided to start wearing it again after going through it and picking off all the little peeled bits of fabric with tweezers (I kid you not). I just need to find a skirt that is as flattering as this one (I mean, my waist looks tiny and I can breathe!) as well as good quality. 

Shoes: Ashleigh Dawson
 Getting so much use out of these shoes it's not funny. Comfy + Stylish = Very Happy Hannah (albeit a little poorer).
Extra bonus pic!

Extra bonus pic Asian style.
(I was thinking that I really should tip my hat to Asian posing, given the amount of posing I do for this blog.)

Until next time :)

Saturday, 27 October 2012

The Song - Anchor

Time for some more music. Oh yes, and I did change the layout of my blog. Do you like it? It means you don't have to scroll to the very bottom to find archived posts, and you can also follow me more easily (if you would like).

Back to the music. So I have a few tracks on my iPod by Mindy Gledhill, who is an indie folk singer from the States (although according to her bio, she spent a significant amount of her youth in Madrid and therefore speaks fluent Spanish - awesome). Anyway, I love her whimsical style; her tunes are very catchy and her lyrics are really quite deep and meaningful. I think my favourite song by her is Hour Glass, in which she sings to her son about how fast time goes and how childhood is precious and should be enjoyed. It's a very sweet song. Actually, all of her songs are incredibly sweet and make me think of long summer days, lollipops and flowers - which is good, because I like all those things.

So have a listen and see what you think.

PS: I also love that she wears cat's-eye glasses, even in some of her music videos. 

Until next time :)

Friday, 26 October 2012

The Review - On the Town

So the other weekend I was in the mood for watching a musical movie - which is great, because I own probably 10 times more movie musicals than your average person. I went through a phase of collecting them when I was around 15-16 years old, and I still love them. Watching musical films also makes me think of my mum a lot, because every Friday after doing the grocery shopping we would cook prawns with chilli sauce on rice and watch a 1940s-50s musical (as you can see, I was clearly one of those rebellious, delinquent teenagers).

Anyway, so I was in the mood to watch On the Town,which I have seen 2 or 3 times before. I couldn't put my finger on exactly why I wanted to watch this one as opposed to any of the other 20 or so musicals I own, but upon seeing it again I remembered why I love it so much.

On the Town is a 1949 film adaptation of the 1944 Broadway show by the same name. The music was done by Leonard Bernstein and Roger Edens. I'd never really noticed before, but Bernstein has a very unique composition style. Perhaps I've listened to the West Side Story soundtrack too many times, but there's something quite quirky and almost musically erratic about his style.

Directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, the film stars Kelly himself, Frank Sinatra, Ann Miller, Betty Garrett, Jules Munshin and Vera Ellen. I always thought it would be kind of strange to both direct and star in a movie, but I guess if you're that good then you can get away with anything.

The film's storyline is pretty basic. Three navy sailors arrive in New York. They are on leave for only 24 hours and although they start out sightseeing, they quickly decide the girls are the nicest sight to see in New York. Funnily enough, this musical is where the song New York, New York comes from.

 Fun Fact #1: This was the first musical feature film to be shot on location. In a TCM interview, Ann Miller took the credit for pleading with and persuading Louis B. Mayer to do the shoot on location because she had "never seen New York".

[attempting to escape from the police]
Gabey:  Hilde, do you know where we can hide?
Hilde: Sure, I know a place right across the Brooklyn bridge where they'll never find us.
Gabey: Where is it?  
Hilde: Brooklyn!

 Fun Fact #3: According to information contained in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the Academy of Motion Pic Arts & Sciences Library, the Breen Office refused to allow the use of the word "helluva" in the song "New York, New York [it's a helluva town]." MGM later changed the word to "wonderful".

Claire: How'd you feel if someone broke your dinosaur?
Ozzie: Never had one. We were too poor.

Fun Fact #2: Robert Williams, who plays the police sergeant in Car 44, also played the policeman who chases Gene Kelly off the street at the end of the title number in Singin' in the Rain.

So what was the real reason that I wanted to re-watch this 1940s classic, as I finally realised? Answer: The dresses. More particularly this dress:

 Isn't it just the most delightful dress you've ever set eyes on? My heart melts every time I see it. The beautiful turquoise colour. The black and white plaid. The breathtaking line and flow of it. And when Ann Miller dances in it, wow. Just wow. 

This is why I have added the following to my wish list:

 Yes, that's right: there is a lady on the Etsy online marketplace named Cynthia who has a wonderful store called Heart My Closet, and she makes reproductions of this dress. Although the dress isn't currently in her "shop", she may still make it - well, at least I hope she still does, because this is my dream dress. 

So how many months away is my birthday?

Actually, from watching this movie I also rediscovered my love for Ann Miller. She has such vitality on stage, and almost steals the show from Sinatra and Kelly. Or maybe it's her dress that does? Anyway, On the Town is definitely worth watching just for this dress, and there are other nice dresses as well.

Time for the preview:

Until next time :)

Thursday, 25 October 2012

The Outing - Lyall Bay and Blue Lagoons

The other weekend (actually probably three weeks ago now - wow, where does the time go?) Luke and I decided to exploring. So we headed down to Lyall Bay, a seaside suburb that we hadn't spent too much time in before, to see what we could find.

We had lots of fun chilling on the beach and watching all the people walking their dogs. A few even came over to us to say hello.

We then discovered an awesome cafe on the waterfront called Maranui Cafe. Apparently a lot of other people have "discovered" it too, as it was quite popular.

The tomato-shaped tomato sauce dispensers are an iconic feature of Kiwi restaurants. And I'm appreciating my artistic ability (read shaky camera hand) in this photo.

For those who do not know, a "Fluffy" is milk froth in a cup for kids, which I think was some smart cafe owner's solution to kids always wanting to steal the froth off their parent's cappuccino (I know because I have totally been there).

Best-looking iced chocolate ever. Look at all those goodies on the top. Yum! We also discovered that despite my original research, New Zealand does have blue heaven milkshakes - they just go by another name here. I feel the blue heaven flavour of milkshake is... awesome, and also impossible to describe as a flavour. I think it was quite popular in the 1940s. It's vanilla, but not really, and blue in colour - some people say it might be blue raspberry mixed with vanilla. The debate continues. I love when even Google can't answer a question. Anyhow, if you're looking for it in New Zealand (although it's harder to find), scan the menu for blue lagoon. :)

Love the old boat theme going on here.

Check these out. Aren't they great? I'm guessing they're from the 1950s or 1960s. Want to zap yourself for health and fun kids? It's all the rage, just insert sixpence and hold the handle. >.< No thanks!

So the Maranui is definitely worth a look, although you might want to visit at off-peak times to ensure you get a spot. Nice views over the ocean too, if you can grab a window seat.

Until next time :)

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Verse - Proverbs 16:4

The Lord hath made all things for Himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.

Proverbs 16:4 (KJV)

I've just finished the book of Proverbs. To be honest, I find it quite difficult to read 2 or 3 chapters of Proverbs every day. It's just so chocker-block full of wisdom that you almost feel like you have wisdom overload when you read more than a dozen verses. It's almost like each line needs its own dedicated day of meditation and contemplation.

I like what one commentator said on the above verse. These seven words answer life's biggest questions:

What is the origin of things? Why do things exist? Who is God? Why does evil exist? 
The answer: The Lord hath made all things for Himself.

Just think about the weight and the meaning of those words. Everything in this universe, both the known and unknown - me, you, the guy sitting next to you on the bus, everything - God has made for Himself.
I must admit that although I'm quite a fan of the ESV, I think this translation doesn't do the verse justice, as it says: "The Lord has made everything for its purpose..." This implies things have a purpose apart from God, which they don't. The truth is nothing would exist apart from God. So God has made all things for Himself.

This is the beginning point for Christians and the stumbling point for many nonbelievers: the idea that you were made by a Creator for His purpose, and that despite what the world may say, your life is not your own; you are accountable to the God who made you for Himself. 

And the fact of the matter is we are disobedient and rebellious against our Creator. We despise the fact that someone has a hold over our lives. Because if God created us, than He has rights over us. We live in His world and need to play by His rules. However, at the very beginning of humanity our ancestors Adam and Eve set up a pattern of rebellion against God, bringing sin and death into the world. This original sin didn't just mean that we are now aware of good and evil or that we are able to sin (after all, Adam and Eve always had the choice to obey or disobey God) - instead, it affects every part of our nature. 

After the fall of Adam and Eve, human beings were born into sin, and this new sinful nature means our hearts are inclined to reject God. We do not even possess the ability to love God, but instead are captured by this sinful nature which makes us want to serve our own will and desires while rejecting God's rightful rule over our lives.

So what can we do? How can we possibly get out of this terrible state of rebellion against God? Well, that is the Good News of Christianity. It's not about what we have to DO, because it's already been DONE. All other religions or even other worldviews are about "doing". Something in us realises that we're not as good as we should be, and our conscience tells us that our sin deserves some kind of judgement. This is true. Other religions and worldviews would say you need to work to gain "salvation" or "enlightenment" by praying more, giving more, sacrificing more, etc. 

However, the Bible and Christianity teach that the work of paying for our sin has already been done - by God's son Jesus Christ, who came to this earth two thousand years ago. He was both fully God and fully Man. Jesus lived a perfect life - unlike us, He didn't live in rebellion or disobedience against God, but rather did exactly what the Father told him to do and fully obeyed Him even to the point of death. As Jesus Himself said: "I always do the things that are pleasing to Him [God]." (John 8:28)

Why did Jesus have to die? He died because God knew we could never reach the perfect standard which His holiness and righteousness demands. God knew that we would sin and rebel against Him, so He provided a way for deliverance. God is eternal, and through our sins (no matter how big or small) we have broken God's eternal law, so we naturally deserve eternal punishment. Although something like lying might seem small to us, we don't see it in the light of God's holiness. The Bible says: "But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death." (Revelation 21:8)

Instead of leaving us to the punishment we deserve, God chose to place the penalty for all humanity's sin on His Son. And because Jesus is both Man and God, He is the only acceptable sacrifice for our sins, and He could atone for our sins. Think of it like a court case: God has pronounced us guilty of breaking his Law, and there is no way we can redeem ourselves. We could say "I'm sorry", but that doesn't mean God won't punish us. After all what good and righteous judge would let a criminal go unsentenced because he said "I'm sorry"? You could try pointing to all the good things you've done, but in God's eyes your good works are just as bad as your sins, because they show that you thought you could somehow bypass God's judgement through your own efforts while ignoring His way of salvation through Christ. "All our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment." (Isaiah 64:6)

No, the only way to be right with God is to accept that we have broken God's laws, that we have been rebellious from birth, and to turn to the cross - to Jesus Christ the Saviour. Jesus died on the cross for you and me, and rose again three days later, defeating death so that we might be reconciled to God. This is why God created you, and this is why God created the universe.

"The Lord hath made all things for Himself" that He might save humanity - the greatest story ever told and the best news ever shared. We can be reconciled to God, and He has completely provided the way. All we need to do is repent (turn from our sin) and place our trust in Jesus Christ to save us.

Monday, 22 October 2012

The Anniversary - This Day 3 Years Ago

So it was on this day three years ago that Luke proposed to me. And exactly 10 months later (to the day) we were married. Yep, I really like the number 22 - well at least now I do. XD

Here is a photo of us shortly after we were engaged. Technically I think it was taken a few days later, as neither of us thought to take a photo at the time. Our minds were obviously preoccupied with other thoughts, such as: "Gee whiz, golly gosh, I'm getting engaged to this person sitting next to me and I'm going to spend the rest of my life with them." For me at least, well-planned practical thoughts such as "I must take a photo of this significant moment" fell to one side. However, you can see in our faces that a few days later we were still somewhere above cloud 9.

So I guess you want to know the story, right? Good, cause I'm more than happy to tell it. :) I've probably mentioned this before, but Luke and I met in Taiwan. I was there on a scholarship studying Chinese and he was there teaching English. To make a long story short, we met at church. We found that we really enjoyed each other's company so we spent about 3 months just hanging out as friends (what we in hindsight refer to as our time of "pseudo-dating"). During this period, our respective sets of parents both visited Taiwan, which was good because when we finally did get engaged it meant they actually had a rough idea whom we would be marrying.

After 3 months of pseudo-dating, our pastor strongly encouraged Luke to make it official and "ask me out" - although I think Luke's exact words were: "May I have permission to court you with the prospect of seeing whether or not we should get married?" What a gentleman huh? So after 6 weeks we decided that it was meant to be. I was leaving Taiwan in a month and a half, and we'd both decided that we didn't want to have a long-distance relationship where neither of us knew if there was a future. 

So on Thursday 22nd October 2009, at about 12:30pm, Luke picks me up from class at Shi Da University. We normally had lunch together on Thursdays. However, before getting a bite to eat he asks if I want to have a stroll around Tai Da Park. I say sure. It's kind of drizzling. Here's how the conversation went:

Luke: You studied Chinese Calligraphy back at Melbourne University, right?
Hannah: Yeah, I did a course. It was great.
Luke: Actually, I learnt some when I went to China for a month.
Hannah: Hmm.
Luke: Actually, I've been doing some recently.
Hannah: Cool.
Luke: Well... I've brought some with me if you'd like to see it.
Hannah: Sure I'd like to see it.

So we look around for some kind of undercover area where Luke can unveil his calligraphy masterpiece to me. I'm thinking it's going to say something like "You're beautiful" or "I love you, Hannah."

We eventually find a little sheltered area and Luke tells me to close my eyes. When I open them, next to me on the bench are two red scrolls that read in Chinese:

Will you marry me Hannah?

Hannah: Are you serious?! I don't know what language to reply in!
Luke: Thinking *Yes I am serious and at this stage any language would be fine.*
Hannah: Yes!

Below is the calligraphy that Luke used to propose to me. For our anniversary this year, we decided to get it framed. Doesn't it look pretty?

Until next time :)